I can’t believe we are almost to spring break! The countdown is starting as we enter March. My early and middle years classes are gearing up for festival performances and warmer weather as we can finally get outside again!
This past month my music classes tried the 7 Piece Multicultural Rhythm Set. My students were excited to try out new instruments. Rhythm instruments are a special favourite with many of my classrooms. This set includes a few instruments that we already had at school, like the guiro and the rainstick, but also has some that my students had never seen before. The monkey drum and agogo became the fast favourites of this set. Also included was a teaching DVD that demonstrated different technical aspects of playing each instrument, as well as activities that could be done.
My early years’ classrooms welcomed the instruments into our rhythmic activities throughout the class. In early years we do a lot of instrument work using unpitched percussion. I have the student sit in a circle during classroom instrument playing, making it much easier when students are passing instruments or moving onto the next one. With a simple rhyme, the students know to pass their instrument to the person sitting next to them. We spent a lot of time practising this at the beginning of the year so that by now they can easily pass it on and our activity can continue.
These instruments also made the perfect tools for playing a game of ‘woods or metals.’ The students had to decide what each instrument was made from based on only the sound they heard. A wonderful way to practice timbre of various instruments! We later extended this to listen to music that would use these instruments, and see if we can find their sound in the song. The students loved this type of musical scavenger hunt!
In my middle year’s classrooms, the students used the instruments to explore different rhythmic patterns and structures unique to the instruments provided in the set. This furthers our study of different musical cultures. Students began to make connections between music they were exploring and music that we had already studied. The instruments have also been used in our Orff lessons as part of the instrumental rotation.
New to our school this year is the Music Musketeers, an Orff based extracurricular club that meets during lunchtime. We have 10 eager students that participate in creating and performing instrumental pieces. Their first performance was at our Christmas Concert and they did fantastically!
Now we are working on our pieces for our community festival, one of which is entirely using unpitched percussion. The song that they will be performing has been entirely composed by the students. Working through the composition process has allowed them to explore their knowledge of rhythm, timbre, and pushed them to think creatively and as a team. The instruments that we have received from the multicultural set have added such a diverse sound to their composition and they are thrilled to be able to perform it when the festival time arrives.
Overall, I am impressed with the instruments. The sound quality was lovely and they withstood a lot of daily use. The DVD was helpful for different ideas and activities to try with my different classes. The only concern I have is with the monkey drum, as it has the two fine strings holding onto the strikers. I am concerned that they may break off with so many little hands using it. But used carefully, it has held up beautifully so far.
As we move towards spring break and through performance season, I am excited to see what other activities we can do to explore these instruments further. Wishing everyone the best of luck on our sprint to spring break, and all those in the various music competitions coming up!
Written by Mandy, a k-8 music and art teacher in the Interlake School Division.